Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Home Improvements

I talked to a number of people who are working on their home improvement projects after the flood. There are many projects underway all over the city… new furnaces and air conditioners, new dry walling and carpets. FEMA continues to warn us that there are scam artists out there who would love to take your money and run. Be careful of anyone who comes to your home offering to do home improvement projects. They often request a down payment, and after you give them your money they are gone. Many of the reputable contractors have 4+ months wait to begin the project, so I can understand folks getting impatient… but, be careful.

We are getting much closer to beginning the hiring process for the Columbus Fire Chief. The fire department came to the City Council Planning session on Tuesday and asked the council to consider combining Emergency Services (Ambulance) into the Fire Department and hiring a full time Fire Chief. We will be developing some cost : benefit numbers to understand the costs behind this. I completely support the Fire Department’s request to go to a full time chief and combine emergency services. Once we have some good data on costs and transition plans, you will hear a lot more about this.

I’m in Madison this week at the Mayor’s Innovation Project where 60 mayors from around the country get together to discuss best practices and topics of importance. We will be discussing transportation options and making our community pedestrian and bike friendly… it should be very interesting.

My son and his family moved to Illinois from Colorado. We’re so excited. This means that the grandchildren are much closer and we will be able to get together much more often… yippee!!!

Nancy Osterhaus

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Steady Pace of Improvements

It is really hot this weekend!! I hope everyone has found a place to keep cool during this hot spell. The trees and flowers love it after all this rain, but I’m trying to stay some place that is air conditioned. That is Wisconsin for you… hot in the summer and cold in the winter. We are sturdy folks!

On Tuesday evening, Dodge County Sheriff Todd Nehls led a discussion at the Fire Station to identify what the fire department feels is important to the future of their department. Todd reported that the meeting was extremely well received by the fire fighters. They identified their primary requirements of a Fire Chief, what they would like to see improved in the fire department and how those improvements could be implemented. They talked about their role as a fire department, and considered the roles of Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services and if they should be integrated into the fire department or affect the way the fire department does business. This information is the beginning of a discussion to determine the position of Fire Chief. The next step is for the City Council to begin discussions on options for salary, hours, duties, etc. The process of hiring a chief is outlined in City of Columbus Resolutions 04-08 and 05-08.

Late last week City Staff met with Melissa Destree from Destree Designs to review a plan to more efficiently use the space in City Hall. Her proposal was amazing. Staff identified a number of problems with space, the biggest issue, of course is with the police area. Melissa developed a plan that reworked the police space, reusing wasted space to create a police area that is efficient. Right now her proposal is being reviewed by the department heads. They will make any changes based on their need and then it will be presented to the City Council. I’m totally amazed with what she has been able to squeeze out of the existing space in City Hall. The plan includes 4 conference/meeting rooms, evidence processing, a waiting area for police, two interrogation rooms, an office for the Economic Development Director, and much more. Do I have your interest? She proposes moving the council meetings to the Senior Center where there is more room for folks to sit, and it frees up a substantial area in City Hall for office space.

The City Administrator has been working hard on ways to meet our 2009 budget limitations. We will be holding a planning meeting on July 29th, where the City Council gives direction to the departments for their 2009 budget. Meanwhile there’s lots of work going on to try to find ways to work more efficiently without substantially reducing services.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Clarity & Clean up

I think that I may have been confusing at the Council meeting about the status of Bill Kluetzman, Doug Landphier and Bob Zapotocny. Let me try to provide you with more clarity. Allegations of wrong doing were brought to my attention, and I had no choice but to place them on administrative leave pending an investigation. Administrative leave is not discipline. An investigation is underway. Based on the results of that investigation, there are several things that can happen… they can be reinstated to their previous positions, they could receive formal reprimands, or if discipline is necessary, charges could be referred to the Police & Fire Commission. Fire fighters and police officer discipline is always handled by the Police & Fire Commission… not the mayor or City Council. We need to step back and let the investigation proceed and allow this to run its true course.

The 4th of July was a very uneventful celebration in the park, but as Interim Police Chief, Dennis Weiner reported, it was quite a different story downtown. Patrons exited taverns with beer bottles in hand and then smashed them in alleys and streets. Fireworks were set off inside one bar, and very close to the back of another building. The police cracked down, and will continue to monitor and ticket bars and patrons to make sure they are complying with the law. When police officers ticketed folks for open intoxicants, they responded that this was a “tradition in Columbus”. I certainly don’t support that tradition. On Monday the 7th of July I walked around the downtown area, and I was appalled to see a very large number of broken beer bottles and empty beer cans littering the alleys and streets. Columbus is a clean, tidy town where almost everyone has neatly cut lawns and well maintained gardens. Downtown businesses must be appalled to have to deal with this trash and illegal activity in their midst. The police have been instructed to uphold the law, and you will notice a much stronger police presence and more ticketing in the downtown area. I believe that the citizens of Columbus support a law abiding community where it is safe to walk and conduct business.

And one more cleanup topic… as of today, almost everyone has power restored and is back in their homes after the flood. FEMA continues to get inquiries and applications for assistance. The City is putting together our damage estimates and will be turning them into FEMA later this month. I’d like to report that Columbus did a phenomenal job with sandbags. We filled, delivered and later removed sandbags. We provided about 2,000 filled sandbags to Beaver Dam when they encountered an emergency with their dam. I have not heard of another community that provided this service to their citizens. Many communities either had nothing, or residents could come to a site and pick up sand and sandbags that they would need to fill and haul home. Almost every community has required residents to pay for sandbag disposal after the flood. We found a way to serve the citizens at low cost. Most of our sandbags were delivered by the National Guard and filled using inmates from the Department of Corrections. The inmates treasured this opportunity and were on the best of behavior in our city. This benefited Columbus by providing a labor force to do heavy work, and gave the inmates an opportunity to give back to society. This is one lesson great lesson learned from the flood.

It looks like we have a wonderful summer weekend coming up. I hope that you have the chance to get out and enjoy the warm weather!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Happy 4th of July

We had help last weekend putting everything back together and getting our lives on track. Volunteers from several churches around the state came to Columbus to help folks clean up their property after the flood. They hauled out flood damaged goods, mopped basements, sprayed bleach and helped us get back to normal again. There are angels amongst us. Folks who are willing to give up their weekends to help a stranger in need. This is the values of a small town in Wisconsin and I love it. We help each other without regard for personal gain. There is no motive except to help a friend get through a difficult time. Thank you to everyone who stepped forward. We are a community that takes pride in our homes and businesses and just 3 weeks after a devastating natural disaster, we are returning to normal.

I need to remind you to go to FEMA to register if you have flood damage. They urge everyone with damage to come and register. They will be at the High School from 10:00 am – 7:00 pm every day, including July 4th. They can answer questions and provide information on preventing damage in future floods. FEMA also reminded me that there are folks who will try to take advantage of us, unscrupulous contractors and scam artists. Be smart when you are looking for someone to help with the cleanup. Do not sign a contract with someone that you don’t know, or make a down payment on work without checking out the references. I am concerned about anyone who solicits your business. Most of the reputable contractors are already very busy, and don’t need to go around looking for additional business. Make calls yourself to people you know to avoid being scammed.

Remember that if you have questions about any topic, call or email. There is a blog on the city website that includes a questions and answer section, and I will try to get you up to date information on important topics as quickly as possible. I am also more than willing to come to any group to talk about issues facing the city. Give a call.

The teen center committee met this week to begin working on establishing a place where young folks can go for activities. They are enthusiastic, fun and ready to help establish safe place for our youth. You will hear more about this effort going forward. Thanks to everyone who works on committees to resolve problems facing our city.

And Happy 4th of July. See you at the parade!!! We will be walking and handing out candy along the parade route, and you can find me at the park and in the streets during the festivities. Please stop by and chat.